Progress Comes Slowly

Lately, it feels like I spend more time contradicting myself on this blog than I should.  (Correction: I spend more time planning to blog and not actually doing it than I should.)

One of the last posts I did that wasn’t a book review mentioned that I was close to querying POSITIVELY ANONYMOUS.  That wasn’t a lie.  At the time, I thought I was close.  I’d made it into the Blind Speeding Dating Contest, and I thought my MS was in pretty good shape.

Then a few things happened in quick succession, one of which being that I got some feedback for PA that was cemented by the complete dearth of requests I received during the contest.  Once that was behind me, I figured it was time to go back to the drawing board and figure out what I needed to work on.

Here’s the thing.  I made a classic mistake, assuming that because I’d already done some revisions on the beginning, I should focus on the ending where the progress felt sloppy.  The problem was, though early revisions came on an entirely different draft at a different stage in my process.  I allowed myself to get complacent, to assume that I’d started in the right place with the correct opening scene.

It was something of a blow when I realized I hadn’t–that there was still some work left to be done on POSITIVELY ANONYMOUS.  Once I accepted that, I expected the revisions to happen fast.  Unfortunately life intervened, and I wasn’t in any mood or frame of mind to rewrite the beginning.

Then, when I had some space in my head to give the story its proper consideration, I realized that there was more information to obtain.  The sources I’d used–while accurate–were providing me with conflicting information.  Information necessary to the new beginning I had in mind.  This doesn’t surprise me, if only because there have been so many different developments from the beginning of the AIDS epidemic to now.

So, where does that leave this MS?  Well, I’m meeting with a firsthand source this coming week–a doctor who has worked with AIDS patients for years.  I’m hoping that our talk will answer my most pressing questions.  After I have the facts necessary to fill in the gaps in my knowledge, I’ll get back to work.  Ideally, POSITIVELY ANONYMOUS will be ready to query by the end of April.

That’s where I’m at.  Have the rest of you been more productive than I was, or did March sap your creative energy also?  Why?

 

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Book Review #6: Bitter End

Bitter End by Jennifer Brown

My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

I’ve read a few other reviews from friends regarding this novel, and I hoped that the book would surpass my expectations. Sadly, that didn’t happen.

Don’t get me wrong. This was a very readable novel, even if it was pretty cliche-ridden. That said, there’s a reason cliches work, and Bitter End wasn’t a totally poor example of overused cliches.

I thought that Alex’s perspective on the situation was fairly nuanced–the reasons why she could end up in a relationship with Cole were clear. There were enough issues on her part, enough feelings of low self-worth, enough confusion and fear that the majority of her decisions made sense.

Sadly, I didn’t feel that way about most of the other subplots. If Cole was such a well-known athlete and he’d already had a restraining order issued against him AND been arrested, word would’ve gotten out right away. Unless he’d moved to a new state–which wasn’t established–there’s no way he could’ve kept that a secret.

The other thing that made no sense to me were the reactions of Alex’s friends. If they’d thought only that they were being ditched for Cole, their distant behavior would’ve made more sense. But they suspected, even outright warned Alex that Cole was abusive, and didn’t DO ANYTHING. Quite frankly, their behavior was far more reprehensible to me than Alex’s.

I also wasn’t a huge fan of the summary style ending, but given the issues I had with the characters we were supposed to feel sympathy for, that was the least of my complaints.

What made the story realistic for me was Alex’s reaction to the relationships in her life–especially her relationship with Cole. Their dynamic boosted the novel to three stars.

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Book Review #5: Guitar Notes

Guitar Notes by Mary Amato

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I’m in an odd place with Guitar Notes. Even though there were parts of the story I would’ve changed, I also blew through the whole thing in about an hour. This is a story I enjoyed now, but would’ve loved in late high school when I was obsessed with any and all stories featuring musician characters.

One of the things I appreciated about Guitar Notes was the effortless switching between the boy and girl POVs–another thing high school me would’ve loved–and the fact that the majority of the songs referenced were original and written out. Having attempted to write books with original songs in them, I understand how hard it is to do well. There were definitely songs I liked better than others, but I thought it was fantastic that all of them were included in their entirety.

If there was one thing I didn’t really get behind, it was how cruel the parents were. Lyla’s dad had something of a reason, but I never fully understood why Tripp’s mother hated his guitar so much. In my experience as a musician, parents tend to be more ambivalent than hateful, and the attitudes of the mother and father in this book didn’t reflect that at all.

Similarly, I loved that Tripp and Lyla never turned into a couple, because I felt that that would’ve ruined the awesome friend vibes they had going on. That being said, I felt the final twist was annoyingly predictable, and I read especially fast through that to find out if it ended like I thought it would. (It did.)

Overall, this wasn’t a book I particularly loved or hated. The two protagonists and the freshness of the music carried what might have been a slightly stale plot otherwise.

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Book Review #4: Such a Rush

Such a Rush by Jennifer Echols

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I haven’t read all that many of Jennifer Echols’ novels, at least not in comparison to other YA authors. I always kind of figured her as a lighthearted romance author, with the occasional story I might pick up and blow through on a bad day.

After finishing “Such a Rush” though, I may be forced to rethink my position. This is a romance, no doubt about it, but there’s so much more at stake here.

Don’t get me wrong–I love a good romance, a good will-they-won’t-they as much as the next person. But from the first page, I was really impressed by how much the setting came into play. I have minimal experience with the south, and even less experience with trailer parks, but the scenario set up in the opening chapter was what made it perfectly believable to me that the MC would turn to flying as an escape.

In fact, Leah was one of the main reasons I loved this book so much. She was tough and she didn’t pander to anyone, but she knew when to back down and be nice, and when to play hardball. It’s always refreshing to find a female protagonist who doesn’t fall exclusively in the ‘tough’ or ‘manipulative’ categories.

The minor characters took a bit more time to grow on me. I started out disliking both boys, and feeling lukewarm about Molly. Kudos to Echols for being able to develop them as characters so that I was rooting for and squealing over all of them by the end.

I’m not into flying, and in all probability a small plane would send me into a panic, but the flying scenes were some of the strongest parts of the book. It’s not only clear that there was a lot of research done, but that Leah’s passion for it and her reasons for feeling that way came through loud and clear.

Once I got into the story, I finished it in no time. A much deserved four stars. Can’t wait to check out some of Jennifer Echol’s other work.

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